There is no other lake so deeply steeped in myths and legends as the famed Lago Titicaca in South America. In many ways, this natural wonder is unique. If one needs to describe it, only the superlatives come to mind: the deepest lake located in the high mountains, the largest freshwater lake in South America, the highest navigable lake in the world, and, of course, the most mysterious lake on our planet.
Lying on the south-eastern shore of the legendary Titicaca Lake, Tiwanaku Archeological Site is the only living testimony to one of the most powerful empire states in pre-Columbian America. Today, little is known about the people who inhabited the area 1000 – 1500 years ago. A lot of what is known is surrounded by myths and fantasies. However, no matter how scarce and incomplete the remaining physical evidence is, it attests to the greatness of civilization that was advanced beyond its age.
Inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000, Tiwanaku has been a site of extensive excavations for more than 100 years. Even though the remaining ruins do not have the grandeur of Machu Picchu, visiting Tiwanaku on a one-day tour from La Paz is a must, particularly, if you are a history geek or, like me, fascinated with ancient indigenous cultures. There are a few things that will definitely keep you wondering about the secrets of this mysterious civilization.
Just like the whole country, Bolivia’s de facto capital La Paz gives its visitors mixed feelings. On one hand, the moment you set your foot here, the polluted streets and decrepit buildings remind you that you are in a third-world state. On the other, the strong influence of traditional Andean culture on the metropolis and its inhabitants creates a mystical ambiance that immediately enchants you. The picturesque location in the highlands of the Altiplano and breathtaking views also add to the city’s unique character.
While many travelers come to La Paz as a convenient transit point between numerous historical sites in Bolivia and Peru, the distinct ethnic touch, rich colonial past, striking natural scenery, and vibrant nightlife make it worthy of a much longer visit. That is why I have written a little guide to help you explore Bolivia’s principal city.
In the Bolivian Altiplano, there are a lot of places that can dazzle you with their beauty. The Salar de Uyuni is, certainly, the most famous among them. Yet, it is not the sole attraction that draws the hordes of travelers to the region. In my post about the Salt Flats Salar de Uyuni: Where Heaven and Earth Meet I mentioned that your Salar de Uyuni tour would not be complete without seeing a few other local gems such as, for example, the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve.
If you ask me to name just one place on earth that impressed me most, without a second thought, I would say Salar de Uyuni. Well, at least, among all those places that I have visited myself. This extraordinary nature’s paradise is one of those rare sights that will look in real life exactly like the mind-blowing landscapes from National Geographic.
Hidden among the highlands of the Atacama Desert, Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat. Even today, this natural marvel has preserved its pristine beauty and looks completely untouched by modern civilization. It is Bolivia’s number one destination for travelers and a must-see on your South American tour. The vast expanses of the flats that seem to have no bounds will surely take your breath away and capture your imagination.
Every year, in late February or early March, the sleepy mining town of Oruro, located in the middle of the Bolivian Altiplano region, all of a sudden comes to life with wild celebrations. The weekend before Ash Wednesday, its usually quiet streets become overflown with jubilant crowds, loud music, and grotesque characters, dressed in lavish dazzling costumes. For several sleepless days and nights, one of the most unique carnivals in the world, known as Carnaval de Oruro in Spanish, enlivens the local community that was home to ancient indigenous festivals long before the modern holiday emerged.